Invisible Illnesses, Chronic Pain, and Social Security Disability

Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits are a federal insurance program available to workers who become disabled or injured and can no longer perform their jobs. The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides this assistance temporarily or permanently.

The application and approval process for Tennessee SSD benefits can be difficult in even the most straightforward circumstances. It’s not uncommon for people with disabilities to be denied benefits, even if they have a legitimate condition that hampers their ability to work.

And, when you live with an invisible illness or chronic pain, the process can be even more complicated. Many people who show no outward sign of illness – don’t require the use of assistive devices like wheelchairs or canes – often suffer from negative misperception, even though their conditions are disabling.

What’s an invisible illness or disability?

Over 60% of employees with disabilities have the “invisible” kind. Here are just a few examples of common invisible illnesses and conditions:

  • ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
  • Autism
  • Brain injuries
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Depression
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Heart conditions
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Migraines
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Seizure disorders
  • Spinal disorders

Symptoms of invisible disabilities

These types of conditions and illnesses can manifest themselves in any number of ways. However, many people may experience common symptoms like the following, which can greatly affect not just work ability, but also quality of life:

Chronic Pain Fatigue Social Security Disability Tennessee

  • Chronic pain. A common symptom of invisible illness, chronic pain can limit a person’s daily activities. Pain might stem from things like spine or back injuries, fibromyalgia, migraines, or other conditions.
  • Chronic fatigue. Chronic fatigue causes a person to feel constantly tired, affecting every aspect of a person’s life, including work.
  • Mental illness. Conditions and illnesses like anxiety, depression, agoraphobia, or other illnesses can be completely disabling.

Qualifying for Tennessee SSD benefits with an invisible illness

Unfortunately, chronic pain or fatigue alone doesn’t make you eligible for Social Security Disability benefits. First, you have to prove to the SSA that you have a severe and medically determinable physical or mental disability that causes those symptoms. According to the SSA, you must meet these three requirements to be considered disabled:

  • Your injury or medical issue has left you unable to perform the work you did before.
  • Your condition or illness prevents you from adjusting to or performing other types of work.
  • Your disability has lasted or is expected to last at least one year, or is expected to result in your death.

Often, disability claims examiners don’t give things like chronic pain or exhaustion the respect it deserves. This is partly because, unfortunately, complaints of pain can be subjective and difficult to prove. And, many doctors who treat disability patients often inaccurately record their patients’ pain levels in their notes, as well as do a poor job inferring what tasks their patients may or may not be comfortable performing. Social Security medical consultants, who help determine who’s approved for benefits, don’t even talk to applicants.

Experienced Social Security Disability lawyers can help give you a better chance for success.

How the SSA is reconsidering pain

The SSA seems to understand that subjective conditions are difficult to assess, and they recently took preliminary steps to ensure more fairness in their evaluation process. They collected public feedback from December 2018 to February 2019, asking the general public for opinions on questions like:

  • Are there changes that we should consider about how we consider pain in the disability evaluation process? If so, what changes do you suggest we make? Please provide data, research, or any other evidence supporting your suggestions where applicable.
  • Within the United States, which standard scales, questionnaires, or other methods to evaluate the intensity and persistence of pain that are commonly accepted in the medical community do you recommend we consider and why? What information exists about the efficacy or accuracy of those scales, questionnaires, or other methods?
  • Should we evaluate chronic pain differently than acute pain? If so, why and how?
  • Should we evaluate nociceptive pain differently than neuropathic pain? If so, why and how?
  • What information and evidence is available on the effectiveness and side effects of the traditional and alternative modalities for treating pain that we should consider?

It remains to be seen how the SSA will use the collected information, but we hope it will mean positive change for Tennessee Social Security Disability applicants.

The attorneys at the Rocky McElhaney Law Firm are committed to helping you secure the Social Security Disability benefits to which you’re entitled. Let us improve your chances for success, whether this is your initial filing or if your filing has been denied. Call our Tennessee disability lawyers today at 615-246-5549 or use our contact form to schedule an appointment. We have offices in Nashville and Hendersonville.

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